To mark World Patient Safety Day, Rachel Carter, Director of Patient Safety tells us more about her role
I started my role as Director of Patient Safety in January 2021 – right in the middle of the pandemic. It was a new post for Northumbria Healthcare and I was brand new to the organisation so it was tricky not being able to meet colleagues in person and doing all my introductory meetings virtually – even now I still haven’t met many colleagues face to face yet!
I began my career as a Physiotherapist in 2004 and came into Patient Safety via various roles including falls and pressure ulcer prevention as a Clinical Improvement Lead and then I worked as the Head of Quality Assurance in another organisation before moving to Northumbria. It was a big decision to move away from my clinical practice as a Physiotherapist but I haven’t regretted it and I feel like I’m now in a role where I can influence positive widespread change for patients.
The main part of my job as Director of Patient Safety is to create and coordinate the delivery of the Patient Safety Strategy. This is a huge task as lots of things fall under the remit of ‘patient safety’ and it crosses all services we deliver in the organisation. My work feeds into the bigger agenda of quality and I work very closely with the teams responsible for delivering and improving the quality of our services.
Patient safety isn’t just about avoiding harm to patients. It’s about the way we learn and improve using sources such as incidents, patient and staff feedback and complaints etc. to guide us where we need to focus attention.
As part of my role I am also a Patient Safety Specialist registered with NHS England. There are many of us registered from all different sectors of the NHS and our role is to provide compassionate and collaborative senior leadership, visibility and expert support to the patient safety work within our organisations. This role supports the development of a patient safety culture of safety systems and engages directly with the executive team.
The main priorities for patient safety at Northumbria are set out in our Patient Safety Strategy and will continue to be my main focus of work over the next few years. These include:
- Improving safety culture
- Developing safe and reliable systems and processes
- Involving patients and families
- Learning from incidents
- Using clinical excellence to improve safety and quality
Changing culture has always been the most difficult part of any of the roles I’ve had in patient safety, but luckily, here at Northumbria there is an excellent safety culture. The challenge will therefore be continuing to improve this, or even maintaining this due to the extreme pressures the NHS is under currently.
What I enjoy most about my job is the variety of things that I get to be involved in. Whether it be investigations into serious incidents, working with colleagues to look at the organisations safety priorities and how to improve these, or regional and national patient safety specialist work – my diary is never the same from day to day. I also really like working with data. It’s important for me to be able to look at all elements of patient safety metrics. This can be both in terms of numbers/rates of incidents and also feedback from staff and patients.
I’m really enjoying my role here at Northumbria and look forward to continuing my work helping to improve patient safety as we begin to move out of the Covid-19 pandemic.